Patients with chronic pain are often told that they need to take charge of their health and their medical care. They’re encouraged to seek second opinions if their pain isn’t under control since medical approaches to any given health situation can vary greatly between medical providers.
However, pain patients are also given dire warnings against “doctor shopping.” What exactly is the difference?
One is an attempt to get better care – and one is an attempt to deceive
Seeking a second opinion is a reasonable, responsible act, and it can help patients determine if there are alternative therapies and treatments that might work better for them. It can also be done when a patient questions a diagnosis and wants to get a specialist’s take on their condition. Typically, it’s an open, collaborative process between the patient and the provider.
By comparison, “doctor shopping” is the practice of going to multiple medical providers primarily to obtain multiple prescriptions for opiates, sedatives, muscle relaxants or stimulants. They’re usually feeding an addiction. In other words, the patient has a hidden agenda when they interact with the doctor, so they may:
- Lie about their medical history or symptoms to exaggerate their need for medication
- Lie about the treatments they’ve tried in the past and what worked or didn’t work
- Pretend that they’ve never received certain medications or have no active prescriptions
- Lie about how long it has been since they’ve received treatment elsewhere
- Use a false name and pay in cash for appointments so they can avoid insurance claims
Doctor shopping is illegal, per Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.129, and it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what drugs were ultimately obtained.
Because of all of the attention on “pill mills” and the problems associated with opiate addictions, doctor shopping can have serious consequences for both patients who engage in it and providers who are too free with prescriptions. That makes it critically important for anybody caught up in an investigation related to doctor shopping to seek legal guidance right away.